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Robert Ford, artistic director of TheatreSquared, stood before a crowd of New York theater professionals — producers, the press, artists and patrons — and told them about Northwest Arkansas’ love of theater.

“We’ve learned in Northwest Arkansas that people love live, intimate and challenging work,” Ford said.

Ford was in New York on Oct. 24 to accept the 2011 National Theatre Company Award from the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards. The $10,000 recognition honored TheatreSquared as one of the nation’s 10 most promising emerging theaters.

Founded in 2005, TheatreSquared is one of Arkansas’ only companies to employ paid artists to create its original productions. The theater, which is the region’s only year-round professional theater, is also distinguished by the intimacy of its space. Located inside the Walton Arts Center’s Nadine Baum Studios in Fayetteville, the theater has 175 seats, and the back is just 15 feet from the stage.

The major story at TheatreSquared through the past few seasons has been its rapid growth. The theater’s audience increased from 4,000 to 18,000 annual attendees between 2009 and 2012.

Building on this momentum, the company recently announced a seventh season that it calls its “most ambitious yet.” The lineup includes four professional productions in Northwest Arkansas, a tour of Arkansas high schools and the theater’s fifth annual Arkansas New Play Festival in Fayetteville and Little Rock.

With the new season of 125 performances set to begin Aug. 30, the stage is set for Northwest Arkansas’ reputation to grow as a destination for professional theater.

Subscriptions for TheatreSquared’s new season are on sale at the Walton Arts Center box office with prices beginning at $84 for a four-play package. Information on the theater’s season seven lineup and programs can be found at theatre2.org or by calling (479) 443-5600.

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